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4.7 out of 5 stars32
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 20 July 2010
This book isn't just about killing Nazi's, nor is it a book about the heroics of Stalin and his Red Army. It's the harrowing tale of one man's experiences in the mother of all battles, where retreat wasn't an option.

Zaitsev's prose and the translation is superb and makes this book a page-flipping good read. There's no bravado. No Communist rhetoric. Just 100% honesty.

For those who've seen the film 'Enemy at the Gates' and want to read the real facts from the horses mouth. Buy (or read) this transcript. Books don't come any better!
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on 13 July 2010
What can i say but wow. This book had me hooked from the first to the last word, i couldn't put it down. The detail of the accounts that vassali Zaitsev gives makes you believe you are right there with him, whether it be duelling a german sniper or being buried alive by artilllery strikes.

A must read if you enjoyed "Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger" or "Red Army Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Joseph Pilyushin "
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on 9 March 2011
I've read this book in a day. Absolutely fascinating, written by one of the world's most celebrated WWII snipers:Vassili Zaitsev.

Zaitsev had received very basic education in his early life, yet his writting is simple and to the point, depicting cinematographically the dire developments, mortal combats and tragic reality of life in the Stallingrad ruins.

Do not expect to read the script of "Enemy at the gates" here and perhaps one should ignore some Soviet propagandistic features that are obvious in parts of the book. If you are interested in getting a good description of what war was for a Red Army soldier and particularly a sniper, I recommend you read this book with an open mind.
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on 3 February 2011
The book is a great addition to any library with a military interest. Unlike so many books written about Stalingrad this one has a much more honest feel to it and that shows through. The emotions and devotion to his country are clearly visible throughout. An amazingly insightful read written by a truly incredible individual.
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on 11 June 2014
Having put down William Craig's 'Enemy at the Gates' I found a note of Zaitsev's book in the bibliography and devoured it fairly quickly.
Whilst I appreciate that some readers will find the fact that he was writing from the point of view of a party member unpalatable, this did not particularly jar with me, taking into account the aggressiveness of the German war machine and the constant toll on soldiers and civilians alike. This was his contribution to the 'Great Patriotic War' after all!
From the point of view of a marksman then I can express nothing but admiration for Zaitsev. Take it from me, hitting the mark at distances of 200 up to 1000 yards with a carefully calibrated cartridge, a modern target rifle and a high powered 'scope, and a bipod or rest, whilst lying on a grassy bank, is no picnic. As far as I know, Zaitsev had the luxury of a Mosin Nagant service rifle, issue ammunition, an indifferent scope, hunger and discomfort and return fire (or worse). If you doubt this perspective then pop down to Bisley and try it sometime.
An interesting man and a good read.
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on 26 December 2012
I own many books about WW2; the personal accounts are always the best. I found this book an insightful account of the mind of s sniper and the battle for Stalingrad. The Nazi's loss at Stalingrad was the turning point in the war and Zaitsev played a key role in demoralising the Germans which lead to their ultimate defeat. The tactics, mind games, patience, intelligence and bravery really stands out. What impressed me the most was just how humble he was and didn't seek glory for himself but trained other snipers and fought for the greater cause.

The one observation was how much Zaitsev loved his country. This is an honourable thing and he hated the fact that the Germans (who he classed all as Nazis) had attacked his country. However, he never mentioned the fact that Russia invaded Poland and were in league with the Nazis beforehand. I want to give Zaitsev the benefit of the doubt that he might have not known too much about it since he grew up in the Urals and was posted to the east before volunteering for the front. It poses the question, he if was Polish, what would he think of the Russians? If he did know, the way he talks he would have naively agreed with any Soviet policy. This takes nothing away from him as a man, a soldier, a patriot and someone who wanted to stop evil at any cost. A very honest and passionate read from start the finish.
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Ive read many books regarding the War on the Eastern front - a hobby that I started about 15 years ago when I first read Anthony Beevors absolutely excellent 'Stalingrad'. It was in that book all that time ago that I first heard of Vasilli Zaitzev and his allies in the Russian sniper corps, so I was excited when I purchsed this book and keen to read the story from the perspective of the man himself, egged on of course by the numerous four and five star reviews of the title. Sadly, what waited for me was disappointment.

I read the foreword with interest, which criticised the movie 'Enemy at the Gates' as being largely ficticious, barely based on Zaitzevs real life story, and an atrocious peice of anti-communist clap trap. All fair comment.

The problem is that Zaitzevs own story appears almost as bias, simply told from the opposite end of the political spectrum and staunchly pro-Communist. Russians are almost always described by Zaitzev as behaving in a heroic and self sacrificing manner. Germans are almost always referred to as 'Nazis' or 'fascists', and whilst there were plenty of both in the battle for Stalingrad, including some infamous SS divisions, its well established that most Germans were neither.

The Germans are almost always described as behaving cowardly, with ineptitude, or as vicious sadists, and Zaitsev only on rare occasion credits them with any ability or skill, and does so only grudgingly when he does. Zaitsev makes no mention of the many horrors that the Russians committed during that battle - horrors which Zaitzev undoubtedly witnessed.

It would be easy to argue that this is a deeply personal account from someone who experienced the worst the Germans had to offer first hand and probably had a hatred of his enemy that is difficult to understand and makes objectivity very difficult. Alternatively, considering how stringently the Communist regime controlled its media and punished defeatism, depending when Zaitzevs notes were originally written it could very well be the case that he felt compelled to paint such a positive picture of the Russians actions during the battle, whilst simultaniously pouring such shame on the Germans.

Another area where the book fails in my opinion is with regards its attention to detail. Books like 'Stalingrad' and 'The Forgotten Soldier' are truely great tomes because they describe events in a manner that allows the reader to feel as if they are there themselves - to feel the heat, hear the cries of the injured, choke on the dust, or smell the dead. Zaitzevs book lacks any such attention to detail - frankly it created the impression for me that Stalingrad was nothing worse than a rubble strewn city and conveyed none of the gravity of so many other books.

The only area in which the book succeeds in my opinion is in describing some aspects of the snipers art - the tricks of the trade so to speak - how snipers moved, how they would locate and eliminate an enemy, their modus operandi. That said, whilst this better describes snipers than it does the battle of Stalingrad, there are also better books about snipers out there if thats what youre looking for.
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on 5 November 2011
Knowing that this was translated i was worried that some of the story will be lost in translation. However, the stories told within the book gripped me and i finished the book within a few days of receiving it. The only thing i would have liked is a map of some of the buildings so you can picture it more easily. This aside i still found that the book was a fantastic read. You can almost picture Vassili talking to you as you read.
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on 25 October 2014
Bought as a gift for my father for fathers day and he absolutely loved it detailing a fascinating man in an often often overlooked front of the war from the west. At least the unrealistic but enjoyable film Enemy at the Gates inspired interest and greater knowledge on the man and Battle.
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on 30 April 2014
YES, a very enjoyable read, right up from his childhood in the backcountry to his introduction to the navy and subsquently onto the front lines with his rifle.
The book was well put together and all aspects tied in well to make a very enjoyable read.
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